BLOG: Termite Ventilation, Healthy Air Quality

by Désirée Driesenaar, Blue Economy Expert

Buildings are often just optimized for one thing: energy efficiency. Although research proves that people who live or work in a healthy building are much more productive and creative. The health of a person is influenced by many different elements, so why would the buildings where they live, learn and work not influence their health? In the Healthy Building Network we have looked at all the factors that make a building a healthy building. We have come up with 5 essential elements that will influence the health of building users significantly: indoor air quality, indoor climate, acoustics, light and look & feel. The more natural these elements, the healthier the person.

Constant Temperature in Desert

Some decades ago, an innovation inspired by nature has produced positive results on both health ánd energy efficiency. The innovation is called termite ventilation. It is a fact that termite hills are very constant in their temperature, although they are often located in deserts where the outside temperature can be 50 degrees during the day and freezing at night. However, the termites collect a fungus that only survives and thrives at 31 degrees Celsius. So they designed their termite hills in such a way that the temperature is always 31 degrees and their fungus grows well. Who says man is the most smart creature in nature? We need complex air-conditioners and heaters that use a lot of energy to achieve the same result.

Anders Nyquist

One of the first architects to apply termite ventilation in his prize winning buildings is Anders Nyquist. He is well-known for the Laggarberg School and the Green Zone, both in Sweden, but his sustainable designs are applied all over the globe. In this short film he explains his work. Did you know that the indoor air quality is often up to 7 times worse in a building compared to outside? And did you know that the area up to one meter, where our children sit and learn in our schools is far worse?

Simple Principles

Termite ventilation is created by a relatively simple design, where air will be cooled underground, comes into the building and will then be warmed by a solar chimney. Physics fact: hot air rises. So the air will take its natural flow, result in ventilation and is released via chimneys, just like in termite hills. The municipality building in Venlo is equipped with this kind of ventilation and saves lots of energy this way.

Call to Action 

In a TEDx Delft talk Ben Bronsema, an expert on air-conditioning, also explains his method of applying termite ventilation.

Many varieties of termite ventilation are possible, but they are all inspired by this one little insect: the termite. These kind of innovations deserve large scale application! We need buildings that are healthy for our citizens, employees and children. And as you can see, it is possible. Architects, builders, clients, it is time to use termite ventilation from whatever supplier in your next building. How can the Healthy Building Network help you achieve this?